Jeff Carter, in an isolated situation, is often close to automatic. Hit the button and he scores.
Of course, the same could be said about many situations for the gifted goal-scorer.
Already on Saturday night, Carter had scored off the rush for the Kings and was aiming to double his output late in the first period. But this time, Arizona goalie Devan Dubnyk denied the onrushing Carter with a poke check and prevented the Kings from taking a three-goal lead.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Coyotes scored on the power play, trimming their deficit to one goal, and they used that surge as a springboard to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Kings at Gila River Arena.
The Kings were fortunate to get to overtime and nearly got to the shootout. With 14 seconds remaining in overtime, Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored on the power play, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from the right circle. Quick faced 40 shots.
“They scored two power-plays goals and that’s the difference in the game,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “The PK [penalty kill] has got to be better. That’s two goals that are on me, not getting clears, and that’s the difference.”
Mood swings, momentum swings. This one turned in a matter of seconds. What could have been a 3-0 lead was a 2-1 game after one period.
The Kings played a well-paced game in the first period but slowed dramatically in second. They had a mere three shots on goal in that period and didn’t record their first until 8:25 into it.
There are many swings in the course of a hockey game, but this flip in momentum was easy to identify.
The Kings jumped ahead 1-0 on an unassisted effort by youngster Tanner Pearson from the base of the right circle. His goal, the first shot of the game, came at 1:32.
Carter made it 2-0 at 12:57, and Dubnyk, the Coyotes’ No. 2 goaltender, had allowed two goals in seven shots. His start was not entirely a surprise considering regular goalie Mike Smith had struggled in the season-opening loss to Winnipeg and was essentially called out by Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett.
Arizona’s comeback started when Pearson went off for hooking B.J. Crombeen. The Coyotes cut the Kings’ lead to 2-1 when defenseman Keith Yandle managed to keep in a Greene clearing attempt and Antoine Vermette redirected Yandle’s shot past Quick at 19:21.
Yandle, a noted Kings nemesis, finished with three assists Saturday night, pushing his career total against the Kings to 23 points.
His second assist caught the Kings on a line change, springing Mikkel Boedker on a breakaway at 10:50 of the second period. That goal made it 2-2.
“He had to make some big saves for us,” defenseman Drew Doughty said of Quick. “That’s part of the reason why we were still in the game. We need to be a lot better.”
Said Coach Darryl Sutter: “Only played two games so I wouldn’t put too much into history. I’d put it into now.”
Through those two games, center Anze Kopitar and linemate Marian Gaborik are still searching for a point.
“He’s finding his game,” Sutter said of Kopitar. “We’ve switched right wingers around there for two games now. Just continue to work at it. He’s an important player on our team. He can play better and he will play better.”
Said Kopitar: “We definitely have to get the chemistry back that we had before. I thought toward the end of the game it was a little bit better. We’ve got to start, score goals and create chances. That’s the bottom line.”
When: 7 PDT.
On the air: TV: FS West, Radio: 790.
Etc.: The Jets will be without forward Evander Kane, who was injured in the first period of Winnipeg’s season-opening game, at Arizona. Winnipeg Coach Paul Maurice, updating reporters, said that Kane (lower-body injury) will be re-evaluated in two weeks.